by Rachel Willis
Writer/director Paul Owens delivers a meditation on past and present with his ambitious, slow-burn debut, LandLocked.
Blending fiction and reality, Owens’s film is a combination of his own family’s home movies and performances of himself, his brothers, and his father portraying fictional versions of themselves. It’s an intriguing set-up, and unlike other family affairs on camera, the Owens family has its share of talent.
Mason (Mason Owens) is the film’s primary focus. Upon returning to his childhood home after the death of his father, he discovers a camcorder that opens a window to the past. In addition, Mason discovers scores of VHS tapes containing all the moments his father chose to record. Watching these videos, as they comprise much of the film’s short runtime, is about as interesting as watching home movies of a family you don’t know. That is to say, not very.
Sure, the family seems happy. There are several scenes that move Mason to laughter. Yet, there is no solid foundation, no reason for the audience to feel connected to the Owens family. Without this connection, anytime a new home movie appears on screen, you can’t help but wish to move forward to the next scene.
LandLocked doesn’t pick up steam until we near its end. When Mason’s grasp on reality starts to blur, as he delves further into his memories, the audience is treated to imagery that provokes confusion as well as suspense. This is when the film truly excels at blurring the line between past and present – when curiosity becomes obsession.
The film is technically competent, and Owens does a great job crafting his low-budget family affair. Mason manages to provide some solid moments of intrigue and interest with minimal dialogue. This is one of the more unique takes on the found-footage genre, so it’s unfortunate the story doesn’t quite carry the weight necessary to create a truly interesting meditation on memory.
The choice to cast his family as his on-screen talent brings naturalism to Owens’s film, though some family members have more talent than others. Choosing Mason to carry the film was a solid decision. Paul Owens proves he has talent as a director, though his writing chops need a little more polish. However, there’s enough quality material on display in LandLocked that it’ll be worth seeing what Owens comes up with next.